Promises to a Perplexed, but Praying, Prophet
In 538 B.C., the first year of Darius the Mede, Daniel was poring over the writings of another prophet, Jeremiah. That year could well have been the year when Daniel was thrown to the lions, and was probably ten or eleven years after the vision in chapter 8.1
This is what captivated him
Jeremiah had written that the whole country would become a desolate wasteland, and certain nations would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. But, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back (Jeremiah 29:10; 25:11-12).”
So I turned to the Lord God2, pleading in prayer, petition, fasting, in sackcloth and ashes.
What prompted Daniel to do this?
On one hand, Jeremiah had forecast the Babylonian Captivity would last 70 years (Daniel 9:2).
On the other hand the pattern of events in chapter 8 foretold that, some time later, the temple, in ruins in Daniel’s day, would become the object of invasion and desecration (Daniel 8:11). The information in that vision must have confused him on this issue. Gabriel, sent in answer to his prayer, says, “consider the vision” (Daniel 9:23).
What did the future really hold for Israel?
In his prayer, Daniel traced Israel’s history of sinful behavior carried on in the presence of God’s unfailing love and in spite of God’s warnings of the dire results of departing from Him. Daniel readily recognized and confessed that their deportation was both a fulfillment of prophecy and a result of sin (9:4-12). His repeated reference to the mercies of God in spite of their rebellion is a poignant reminder of the founding of the nation about 900 years earlier. At Mount Sinai, in the presence of God, his ancestors had declared, “We will do everything the LORD has said (Exodus 19:8).” Forty years later, their descendants had been warned of the results of disobedience which would include invasion by “a nation from afar, swift as the eagle, of fierce countenance (Deuteronomy 28:49ff).”
“We have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept his laws … All Israel has transgressed, turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses written in the Law of Moses have been poured out on us … Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like this.”
Daniel appeals to God to mercifully restore the nation (9:16-19)
“Lord … turn away your anger from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. … For your sake look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. O Lord, listen, forgive, hear and act! … because your city and your people bear your Name (9:19).” Israel exists only as God dwells with them. So, the restoration of the sanctuary as God’s dwelling with Israel was crucial for the restoration of the nation.3
This is prayer, discussing the matter with God and expecting a response. Responses from God come in two ways: words (here, of the angel) and in subsequent history.
Having seen the history of Israel through Daniel’s eyes, we are about to see the future through God’s eyes!
“While I was still praying, Gabriel came and said, ‘I have now come to give you insight and understanding. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision.’” Gabriel knows what has prompted Daniel to pray. He has heard his expression of sorrow for Israel’s sins, the root cause of the mess they were in.
Although Daniel was praying for his own people, thinking of their situation, geographical, political, and spiritual, Gabriel foretold the solution to the sin problem for all people, because all have sinned.
In essence, Daniel is told:
1. Sin will be dealt with by an atonement accomplished by the Messiah.
2. There will be an extension of time for his people and his holy city, but for a period only.
3. The sanctuary, though restored, will be destroyed again.
4. A new kingdom will supersede his. It will feature a new and living way to God.
“Seventy ‘sevens’ (Heb. shabuim)4 (490 years) are decreed5 for your people and your holy city, to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint a most holy place6 (9:24).”
The promises fall in two groups of three.7
1. to finish transgression (pesha = high handed sin, rebellion8), to put an end to sin (chattah = to miss the mark), to atone for wickedness (awon = guilt).
These three Hebrew terms, covering all wickedness, could be read: “to shut up willful transgression, to seal up mistakes, to cover up guilt — as though sin were a prisoner to be imprisoned in a tomb, then to be sealed up and then to be buried by an avalanche.”9 Daniel, worried for his nation, is hearing the Gospel! God has sent his angel to foretell how everything can be rectified. There was nothing that Israel could do to make things right, but God, out of love, was going to provide atonement.
2a. to bring in everlasting righteousness
Sin will have been removed and righteousness credited to all who choose to become part of the kingdom of God. St. Paul grasped this truth (Romans 3:21-25).
2b. to seal up [confirm] vision and prophecy. Believe me [Gabriel is virtually saying], it will happen as predicted! (cf. John 14:29)
2c. and to anoint the most holy place — at the inauguration of the High Priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary upon His ascension to the presence of His Father (cf. Hebrews 9:23.).
When would this happen?
Not at the end of the 70 years forecast by Jeremiah, but seven times longer than that; after 70 “sevens,” “decreed” for your people, have passed.
Seven “sevens” followed by 62 “sevens” (483 years) would elapse from the proclamation of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince. Because four decrees10 were made, this time period would begin sometime within their period. Suffice to say that, for all who accept that Christ was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah11 around A.D. 27 (Luke 3:1-21), the relevant decree was made in 457 B.C. In the meanwhile there will be a significant way-mark: “Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.”
“After the 62 ‘sevens’ have passed, the Messiah will be cut off (Heb. karath) and will have nothing12 (9:26a).” With Isaiah’s prophecy (53:8), that the servant of the LORD would be “cut off (Heb. gazar) from the land of the living,” this predicts a violent death for the Christ.13
“The people of the prince (Heb. nagid) who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary (26b, NKJV).”14 This could well mean that Rome would accomplish the will of the Messiah, for the Hebrew word “nagid” for “prince/ruler” in this verse is the same as that for “the prince” in the term “Messiah, the prince” verse 25.15
The invasion of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 B.C. after a three-month siege, the massacre of priests while performing their duties, the incursion into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement,16 the invasion in A.D. 70 and the setting up of Roman standards in the Temple area, the destruction of the Temple, the banning of Jews, upon pain of death, from Jerusalem in A.D. 135 and the erection of a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the Temple, might all have been intended to fall within the scope of verses 26-27. These lines depict war, destruction, the termination of the Jewish sanctuary service and, in the phrase “abomination of desolation,” the installation of idolatry by an idolatrous invader.17 Among the Jews an idol or other heathen symbol was often termed an “abomination” (1 Kings 11:5, 7 et al). The prophecy also forecast that, in the middle of the final “seven,” i.e. 3½ years after the anointing of the Messiah, he would bring an end to the Jewish sacrifice and offering with his being “cut off” for us all (See Isaiah 53).
The focus of Daniel’s prayer of concern has been the restoration of the nation. The focus of the answer has been on how restoration could be really effected through the Messiah, the atonement, his kingdom — and the passing of Jerusalem and Judaism as a center for salvation. In fact this predicts a new order of things that Daniel could not at that stage have imagined — an order in which Daniel’s people, with all the Gentiles, will have to look elsewhere for salvation.18
We still happily agree with Darius, the Mede, when he said: “He is the living God who endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth (Daniel 6:26-27).”
“It is Finished” 19
See Him on the cross rejected,
God’s own Lamb without a stain.
There in death for us perfected,
As the veil is rent in twain.
Hear His cry, then, “It is finished.”
Now the dark account is paid —
Every stain, not one diminished;
O my soul, be not afraid!
Come, my friend, and be forgiven;
Still God’s mercy waits today,
Guiding sinners safe to heaven
By the new and living Way.
This prophecy then, reminiscent of Genesis 3:15 in its style, is just as important.
1. See Keough, Arthur G., Let Daniel Speak (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1986), 91, and Price, George McCready, The Greatest of the Prophets (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955), 219.
2. In Daniel 9:2-4, 7-10, 13-17, 19-20, Daniel sometimes addresses or refers to God as “Lord” and sometimes as “LORD.”
3. cf. Revelation 21:3 — And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4. Although the KJV reads “weeks,” the following statement is instructive for students who understand these to be weeks of “days” and then turn them into “weeks of years” by employing the “year for a day” method (“year-day principle”) to interpret time periods in apocalyptic prophecies.
“In the pseudepigraphical Book of Jubilees, as well as in the Mishnah [the collection of interpretations and discussions of the law of Moses by the rabbis, codified c. 200 A.D.] shabua’ [“sevens”] is used to denote a period of seven years. Here, [in Daniel 9] evidently, weeks (sevens) of years are intended rather than weeks (sevens) of days . . . Seventy weeks of years would be 490 literal years, without … applying the day-year principle.”
Nichol, Francis D., ed., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978).
5. Decreed is translated from the Hebrew word “chathak” which occurs only here in Scripture. Hebrew scholars, including those who translated the LXX, translate it “decreed,” “determined.” The same Greek equivalent is employed by Paul in Romans 9:28.
6. “Place,” as in NRSV, NASB, et al. See Ford, Desmond, Daniel (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1978). 227.
7. Ford, op. cit., 225.
8. A reminder of Daniel 8:12-13
9. Ford, op. cit. 226.
10. 538 B.C., Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 44:28); 519 B.C. (?), Darius the Great (Ezra 6:1-12); 457 B.C. (Ezra 7:13-28); and 444 B.C., Artaxerxes I (Nehemiah 2).
11. “Messiah” is the anglicized version of the Hebrew word “Meshiach” which means “anointed.” The Greek translation is “Christos”, the anglicized form of which is “Christ.”
12. and will have nothing. The Hebrew for this phrase is so vague that no translation can claim to be definitive. See SDABC.
For some, the actual date of the crucifixion (calculated by some to be in A.D. 31) is an important matter. For those readers I add this material published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Letters to the Editor published in the “Adventist Review” of February 28, 1985.
Crucifixion date correct
I read a newspaper report that two British astrophysicists Colin Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, have calculated that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday, April 3, in the year A.D. 33. Are their calculations sound?
We asked Dr. William H. Shea, professor of Old Testament at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, to comment. His reply: The basic data involved are these. These two authors hold that we can tell how the Jews handled the intercalated (extra thirteenth) month every third year because they handled it in such a way as to keep the month of Nisan as near as possible to the vernal equinox. They cite some rabbinical references to this fact; I haven’t checked them. If this is correct, it means that you can narrow the possibilities for the month of Nisan in which Jesus was crucified to one month for each year, instead of two for several of them because of this problem with the calendar.
In comparison to Finegan’s Handbook of Biblical Chronology, therefore, they have reduced the number of possibilities. If one uses Finegan’s Dominical Day lists or Johns’ Julian day number calculations, it does appear that the days of the week given in Finegan are correct, and this new study just came to the same conclusion. That does indeed make 30 or 33 the best mathematical possibilities.
Unfortunately, in this article they rule out 30 for no particularly good reason that I can see. One can take the same data and make a very good argument for 30 — better in fact, than for 33. That does not solve the case between 30 and 31, but 30 looks like a better candidate than 31, when Christ could have been crucified on Wednesday or Thursday but not on Friday.
It may well turn out that 30 is the correct date. I suggested this in my Glacier View manuscript section on dates. If that be the case, then we may have to think a bit more about what “in the midst of the week” means in Daniel 9:26, 27. Does it have to be exactly 50 percent precisely in the center, or can this be another case of ancient Semitic thinking in which some time around the middle of the week (30 instead of 31 ) would be acceptable?
Since 27 seems pretty well fixed for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a two-and-one-half-year ministry in John would bring one to 30 and thus fit these dates.
ADVENTIST REVIEW, February 28, 1985, page 4
13. cut off. Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), entries 3772 [Heb. karath = “cut off”] and 1504 [Heb. gazar = “cut off”]. Gesenius explains, “By this phrase [cut off] is meant the punishment of death in general without any definition of the manner (never the punishment of exile . . .).”
14. Here I have depended on the poetry of the NKJV. The LXX reads: “He (the anointed one) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming.”
15. Cf. Isaiah 41:2; 44:28; 45:1; Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10; Habakkuk 1:6. The LXX reads, “he [the Christ] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming.”
16. NIV Study Bible, art. “The Time Between the Testaments” and, Everyday Life in Bible Times, (National Geographic Society, 1967), 291.
17. See also Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15 for variations of the same term.
18. Cf. Hebrews 13:11-14.
19. Richards, H.M.S., Have Faith In God (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1952), 49.
© 2010, Angus McPhee